Alders ask Madison mayor to improve communication with plans to build men’s shelter

Five alders held a press conference Thursday morning expressing frustrations about communication with the mayor’s office.
Five alders said the mayor did not inform them that the city and Dane County selected 1902 Bartillon Drive as the location to build a permanent men’s shelter.
Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 6:10 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2022 at 6:34 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Common council members say they understand the need for a permanent men’s shelter, but argued Thursday that Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway needs to be more transparent throughout the planning process. The mayor’s office said it has been clear in its communication.

Five out of 20 alders held a press conference on Thursday and said the mayor did not inform them that the city and Dane County selected 1902 Bartillon Drive as the location to build a permanent men’s shelter.

“The mayor doesn’t get to sit in the fourth floor and decree something and have it happen,” District 17 Alder Gary Halverson said. “The fact that we were not notified that this was a decision that was coming or even invited to the press conference is unacceptable way of operating government and we’re not going to allow that to continue.”

Mayor Rhodes-Conway made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday and said she did notify common council adequately at her own press conference on Thursday.

”I find it frankly surprising that alders are acting like they don’t know that there’s a long process ahead of us and that they’ll be plenty of opportunities for them and all of our constituents to weigh in,” she said. “We’ve been searching for a site for a permanent purpose built men’s shelter for sometime now thanks in part to the council’s decision to delay moving forward on this. Which is unfortunate, cost us a year but nonetheless here we are.”

Madison Common Council President and District 12 Alder Syed Abbas said the council is not to blame for delaying the project.

”The underlying issue is when communication doesn’t happen with the council then these types of projects get delayed,” Alder Abbas said. “This is about our constituents and this is about lack of collaboration from the top. That pattern you can see in various issues across the city where the collaboration is not there with the council.”

The mayor said there is still time to work together.

“Alders have had multiple chances to weigh in on this decision process and to give their feedback and input,” she said. “They will continue to have multiple chances to do so.”

Next, she said they plant to present a resolution to pick a designer and operator “sometime soon”.

The City of Madison purchased two properties that could serve as the location for the permanent men’s shelter in October.

The men’s shelter is currently at a facility on First and Johnson St. on the east side of town.

Per the mayor’s Wednesday announcement, men experiencing homelessness at the shelter will be moved to a temporary location on Zeier Rd at the end of the summer. They will stay in this temporary facility until the permanent facility is built on Bartillon Drive. Mayor Rhodes-Conway said the goal is to break-ground in 2023.

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